The U.S. Should Be Paying Parents to Stay Home

Not just during the pandemic, but forever

Jessica Valenti
Published in
3 min readNov 25, 2020
Photo: Mariana Alija/Getty Images

One of the great ironies of being a mother in the United States is that while you’re told you have the “most important job in the world,” you are given zero money, little support, and none of the protections or respect that one would expect to accompany a role society says is indispensable. Mothers are supposedly invaluable, but our payment only comes in platitudes.

As we stretch into the ninth month of the pandemic, things are still looking grim: Over 1,000 people are dying of Covid every day, unemployment is at record rates, and women are leaving the workforce in numbers so high it could undo decades of economic progress. And while a vaccine appears on its way, it’ll be months before its availability and impact will change Americans’ everyday lives. Given this new reality, it’s absurd that this country hasn’t started to pay people to stay home. Parents, especially — who don’t know whether their children will be in school from one week to the next and who are navigating the full-time work of caring for children during a national crisis — need to be paid.

This is not a radical idea. Other countries are finding ways to compensate parents, whether it’s the full pay given to those in France who can’t find care for their quarantined children, or the year of paid time off that Denmark is offering to parents whose children get ill. Japan has paid family leave for parents with children whose daycare has been closed, while Ireland is paying for three months of childcare fees.

Mothers are supposedly invaluable, but our payment only comes in platitudes.

Governments across the world are finding a way to offset the financial damage so many families are facing, and it’s a scandal that the U.S. isn’t doing the same. Ideally, parents wouldn’t just be compensated during the pandemic, but forever. I realize that’s a tall order, though — so for the time being, I’d settle for a commonsense policy that recognizes that parents need help right now.

That this country’s leadership would disregard the needs of parents is not surprising, of course — nor is it specific to the Trump…



Jessica Valenti
Writer for

Feminist author & columnist. Native NYer, pasta enthusiast.